PHILADELPHIA -- Throwing free and easy in the Citizens Bank Park outfield on Saturday, Phillies ace left-hander Cole Hamels played catch with pitching coach Rich Dubee.

All went well throwing from about 80 feet, the first small step toward the All-Star's return to the rotation. The soreness from Wednesday's MRI dissipated and Hamels said his throwing elbow felt "normal."

"We played catch for 10 minutes," Hamels said. "It's all good. When I get out on the mound, that's when they're really going to monitor it."

Hamels hasn't picked up a baseball since throwing his bullpen session on Aug. 18, two days after surviving 6 2/3 innings in sweltering heat to beat the Nationals. He experienced soreness before that, but started. Hamels then brought the discomfort to the team's attention on Tuesday, a day before his scheduled start against the Dodgers.

Hamels plans to throw off a mound on Tuesday, then possibly again on Thursday. If he feels no discomfort in his left elbow, the Phillies will determine when he might return. Assuming there are no setbacks, Hamels predicted that he'll try for his 15th win on Sept. 3 against the Braves.

"Why not?" he said. "I always seem to face them."

Starting that day would slot Hamels between Adam Eaton and Jamie Moyer, and give Moyer an extra day off after his start on Wednesday. If Hamels has discomfort in any of his mound sessions, obviously the plan changes.

"Then they'll just keep pushing it back and let it heal," Hamels said. "I want to have my 'A' game when I'm in there. That's important."